Climate change is upon us. Global temperatures are rising and environmental disasters are happening more frequently, so doing business as usual will no longer cut it. Businesses and society as a whole need to change their supply chains and operations. We as a people must shift toward conscious consumerism.
Individual people and even small businesses might seem insignificant to giant corporations. How can we hope to change the big corporations that have the biggest impact on climate?
The reality is that we can change the world through collective action. As consumers, it starts with how we spend our money — and we can scale that upward as small businesses or professionals. By choosing to use sustainable products, we can reduce our carbon footprint. To help us make sense of this, we invited Cathryn Peirce of Carbon Zero Financial to talk about how the API platform enables consumers to make more sustainable decisions with everyday purchases. We can’t escape the need to purchase, but we can mitigate its effects with conscious consumerism.
Change is possible. But we have to strive for it.
Cathryn has always been interested in social impact, particularly interpersonal violence reduction and financial literacy for minorities. She has a sense that things can and should be better. According to her, “It’s actually critical that more people start to create business models whereby progress and impact are intrinsic to profit. What excites me is creating more entrepreneurial endeavors and opportunities for us to not have profit for profit’s sake, but profit for progress’ sake.”
Behavior Change and Carbon Zero Financial
Behavior change is about identifying the norms and beliefs we ascribe to, then shifting our thinking and actions based on our values and the outcomes we want. Conscious consumerism is part of the goal in that change.
This concept is critical to climate action. As Cathryn puts it: “So much of the problem is this kind of unconscious assumption. It’s this participation in the exacerbation of climate change in such a way that we don’t fully understand the role we’re playing, that poses a really direct threat to our survival on Earth.”
The Power of Your Spend and Carbon Zero Financial
Cathryn emphasizes, “One of the most important ways that we, in fact, enact change is through our spend. Voting with your dollar is critically important to endorsing certain ideas, communities, and practices.”
Taking action with how you spend is where many people fall short. However, a significant obstacle to people’s capacity to spend responsibly is a lack of knowledge. The data and reports that could inform ethical spending exists, but it’s not readily accessible to most consumers. Thus, it’s hard to make changes and see the resulting progress.
Carbon Zero Financial aims to address that problem. They gamify conscious consumerism through the following services:
- Benchmarking and providing data about a person’s spending habits and carbon impact.
- Connecting customers to a sustainable business.
- Creating opportunities to help consumers offset their carbon impact.
Carbon Zero for Small Businesses
Carbon Zero Financial works as an additive to consumer credit cards, but can also be added to corporate credit card products.
For small businesses, Cathryn recommends a company start by analyzing the carbon impact of its supply chain. This sets a benchmark for a company’s carbon impact and can give you better ideas on what needs to change. Businesses can utilize Carbon Zero Financial to analyze their transactions’ carbon footprint.
Carbon Zero Financial works mostly with banks to ensure a wider reach, but they also do consulting services for individuals and companies. Small businesses contributing to ESG can also work with Carbon Zero Financial and serve their consumers.
What is Carbon Sequestration
Reducing our carbon footprint usually starts with lowering the carbon we emit. But it doesn’t address the carbon that’s already out there. Carbon sequestration involves capturing, storing, and isolating existing carbon in our environment.
Carbon Zero Financial also helps consumers in this way. Cathryn points out that they also allow their consumers to increase their impact by putting their credit card reward points towards carbon capture projects.
Cathryn says, however, “this is not a panacea, this is not an excuse to continue living as we do presently, carbon capture is one resource that we can rely on, but more critically, we do need to actually create more sustainable practices for ourselves. The one misconception that people have is kind of like, well, we can just offset everything. And that’s really not what the intent is.”
Carbon Zero Financial endorses several carbon capture projects. They verify and standardize them to assess their efficacy and then shortlist them, making it easier for customers to begin practicing conscious consumerism. They also provide options based on methodology, technology, and location.
How to Think About Carbon Impact
Theoretically, a person can go beyond carbon neutrality by purchasing carbon offsetting. By supporting enough projects, a person or organization can offset more carbon than they emit. However, Cathryn recommends looking at our consumption habits first. Carbon offsetting does help the environment, but it’s not a replacement for true sustainability and environmentally-aware practices.
Here are some questions to think about:
- What are you consuming?
- What are you wasting?
- What frequency are you purchasing things unnecessarily?
- And how frequently are you shopping locally?
“For everyday people and for small businesses, I think it’s just important to look at your own behaviors and start to identify ways to make improvements where you can.”
Change is Possible
The COVID-19 pandemic proved to us that we can adapt to drastic changes. People and companies made considerable shifts in how they operated. Shifting to sustainable companies isn’t as significant a change as that — anyone can do it.
Innovators can contribute by making easier processes to help people understand their carbon impact and incentivize them to reduce it. Demands for sustainable products can also create a wave of change in policy and businesses.
Cathryn shares that “Over 90% of categories examined on sustainability marked products are outperforming their conventional counterparts according to a Stern Report. Over the past five years, there’s been a 71% rise in online searches for sustainable goods globally. And overall, we know that sustainable products sell 5.6 times faster than their conventional counterparts.”
Companies that want to stay relevant and competitive must incorporate social and environmental good into their practices. There’s a clear demand for it, and consumers are becoming much more aware of the good companies can do.
How Carbon Zero Financial Works
Your card transactions typically show your purchases and are grouped by category. Similarly, Carbon Zero Financial also sorts your purchases but includes a carbon footprint statistic. It’s also easy to access carbon-offsetting projects that use your reward points. They also advertise promos around sustainable brands. This gives you additional data to work with so that you can practice conscious consumerism.
The experience is still similar to what we’re used to, except it adds perspective on our carbon footprint. Carbon Zero Financial is also looking into adding statistics about shopping from women-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, and veteran-owned businesses
Cathryn reminds us, “we all have so much more power than I think we give ourselves credit for. It’s important that we exert it. Whether that’s with your bank, whether that’s demanding that they be facilitators of how you live a more aligned life, when we make those demands, they are so desirous of retaining us as customers, it does have an effect.”
Moreover, be gentle with yourself. You don’t need to be perfect — it’s all about progress, no matter how small. Conscious consumerism starts somewhere.
Learn More About Cathryn and Carbon Zero Financials
Cathryn Peirce is the Co-Founder and CEO of Carbon Zero Financial, a B2B API platform providing white-label ESG features for card products. Their service makes it easier for people to integrate a carbon-neutral living every time they make transactions and purchases. Carbon Zero also created a marketplace as a one-stop shop for consumers to purchase sustainable alternatives. Conscious consumerism begins with us.
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